The historic town of Selkirk, one of Scotland’s first Royal Burghs, offers connections to some famous historical Scots. It was in the town’s Forest Kirk that William Wallace was proclaimed Guardian of Scotland, while author Sir Walter Scott served as the sheriff for more than 30 years. 

Selkirk’s common riding, with more than 400 mounted participants, is one of the oldest of the Borders’ festivals, dating from the Battle of Flodden in 1513.  The town sent 80 men with the Scottish king and only one returned bearing a bloodied English flag. 

A more palatable tradition is that of the Selkirk Bannock, a delicious fruit cake. The local distillery has even created a speciality gin from the bannock. You’ll find both along the market square, which itself hosts a monthly market with local goods and produce for sale. 

Just west of the town is Bowhill house, a Georgian mansion, set in extensive grounds, with beautiful woodland walks and an adventure playground. Further afield are the twin valleys of Ettrick and Yarrow with arguably some of the most glorious scenery – and toughest cycling – in the Scottish Borders.  Tower houses dotted around the valleys speak of the turbulent past of raiding and ‘reiving’ across the border with England, while standing stones and bronze age settlements link this land to more ancient times. And while you are there, do look up at night for some optimum star gazing.  

And by St. Mary’s Loch, southern Scotland’s largest stretch of water, you’ll find the quiet peace so adored by James Hogg,’ the Ettrick Shepherd’ – a poet and contemporary of Scott’s. Nowadays the loch is popular for outdoor activities such as paddleboarding and kayaking.